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beers using light extract tasting the same

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bryceb04:
Ok, I'll probably get a few "duh"s from the subject, but after brewing about a half dozen extract kits from MoreBeer and Northern Brewer that have shipped with their light or pale extracts, I tend to get the same flavors out of it no matter what style or what types of steeping grains or hops I've used or the quantity.  I'm trying to place exactly if it's a defect in the flavor, but I can't find anything on the BJCP Score Sheet that exactly describes it and I'm at a loss for words as to what exactly the flavor is.  It's kind of sweet-ish, although these beers have both fermented for over a week in the primary and for 4+ weeks in the secondary before kegging.

I just recently brewed a MoreBeer Light Ale, a NB Chocolate Milk Stout (not using the chocolate flavoring--so more of a cream stout I suppose), and then a NB ESB.  For the Light Ale and the ESB I get a very similar flavor, although the Light Ale used 1.5 oz total of Cascade hops (.5 for 60, and 1 for 1 min), and the ESB used 2 oz Willamette for 60, 1oz Kent Goldings for 15 and another 1oz KG's for 1 min.  I understand hops are slightly different in alpha acids and what not, but I would suspect vastly different flavors out of these beers, but what I get are similar sweet-ish aftertastes and only slightly different hop profiles.

Am I doing something wrong?  As for the cream stout, it has none of the problems I'm detecting with the other ales, and is actually quite enjoyable, but when i sip the Cream Ale and ESB, I can't help but wonder what I did wrong.

Any suggestions or ideas?

rbclay:
What type of water are you using? Although you haven't mentioned it, I am thinking that is the only constant ingredient between your beers. The kits you mention have different extracts- light is different than pale. I can't speak to MoreBeer kits, as I've never used them, but I'm sure the NB extracts are reliably fresh. I assume from your recipes that you are using different yeasts. I suspect the water.

I am also an extract brewer. Have been for a long time. Never went AG. I make very good beer- but it took a lot of trial and error. I advise taking the time to repeat at least one of these recipes, changing only one thing at a time. You may not think, as I didn't when I started, that the water makes any difference because you are using extracts. I guarantee you that it makes a huge difference. I thought that if the water tasted OK to drink, it would make OK beer. But your words reminded me of EXACTLY what I said when I started brewing! All my beers tasted the same! Couldn't figure it out. Every time I would just brew a different style fuguring it would change and get better. It didn't. Until I changed the water. Turns out my tap water makes lousy beer.

Good luck...

bryceb04:
Hmmm...I guess I'm just using Castle Rock, CO tap water.  I'll try some filtered water or bottled water, do you recommend using a brita or pur filter or just buying jugs of water at the store?  I guess that's part of the trial and error involved, but anything you've learned would be appreciated.  Much prefer to be able to do it filtering tap water, for the cost factor, but I do want a great beer, so if i have to go bottled, i'll go bottled.  Castle Rock water comes from ground sources, not reservoirs like many other places in CO, FWIW.

and yes, the yeasts and malts were different, London ESB vs. California Ale, and Gold (misspoke here) vs. Light for LMEs. 

Appreciate the suggestion, guess I'll order another ESB kit and try it with different water this time...probably go store bought just to completely change sources and try filtered next go round if that clears it up.  Come to think of it, my first batch was back in MD with store bought water and it was a damn good pale ale.  Should'a thought.

Cheers,
Bryce

beerrat:
A couple thoughts as I initially had a "house flavor" in my first beers.

1) I used filtered water instead of straight out of the tap.  Something with a charcoal filter to remove chlorine.  I'm not a fan of bottled water because you really don't know what your are getting.  Often, someone else's tap water :-)

2) I switched to starsan to sanitize my equipment.  I think the other no rinse stuff was introducing flavors.

3) Fermentation temp keep < 70f (or per recommendation for yeast/style).  

4) I use DME more then liquid as DME has longer shelf life and less issues with temp impact.

I no longer have the house flavor.

Good luck.

abraxas:
A few things I have found are:

Liquid extracts always resulted in an off flavor for me regardless of who made them.  They will change sitting on a store shelf and are best purchased fresh and refrigerated if possible.  You will find DME will make a better beer, though it is a bit pricier.   Or you can always go to all grain (Brew In A Bag method is cheap easy and has a lot of proponents right now).

Fermentation Temp...like beerrat stated is important.  Fermentation can easily be 10F over room temp.  Fermentation temp control is one of the single biggest keys to making good beer.

Also water profile.  I've read that extracts should have all the required mineral content and you should be able to use distilled water or spring water.  Give this a try and see if this fixes your problem.  Your water might have a chloride to sulfate ratio that accentuates maltiness, this could be the off-flavor you are describing.

Also, maybe you are being too critical of your own beer.  Send a bottle off to somebody who is more experienced and have them let you know what they think.

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